Music Monday January 19th 2009

I tried a couple “Music Monday” posts last year, but was not consistent at all.  I am not promising to have a music post every monday, but I will at least try to have a few more.

Today’s music is music that I missed last year — music that showed up on a few “best of 2008” lists that I saw in late December — that I have really gotten into the past few weeks.

The first band is Fleet Foxes, which has a very unique, fresh sound in today’s music world.  Check out this claymation video for one of my favorite songs off their album:

The second band is Blitzen Trapper, and their album Furr.  Almost every song on this album sounds different from the others songs, almost a unique genre for each!  Here is an album of their song “Furr” which Riley has been requesting constantly (“play the song where the boy turns into a wolf!”).

And a much darker song:

Top Albums 2008

It seems like everyone else is doing top Albums of 2008, and it also looks like I don’t have many (or any!) of those albums.  I guess I’m just not with it music-wise anymore.  :-/ But I thought it would be fun to do my own list, so here are my top albums of 2008.

  1. These are albums added to my Library in 2008, not that were released in 2008, so my list will of course look much different than most others.
  2. I used both objective and subjective criteria to rate these.  Objective criteria are my play counts.  Subjective criteria are my ratings and just thinking about where the album should be in the list.
  3. This was much harder than I thought!  While these are definitely my favorite albums of the year, it was not easy to pick a clear winner and there is often not much differentiation between the rankings.

1.  Trans-siberian Orchestra, Beethoven’s Last Night.  (2000)

This may seem like a quirky pick, but I love TSO, which is evident as they are my number 3 top played artist according to my playlist counts on ilike.  That’s incredible since 3 of their 4 albums are Christmas albums (and I typically don’t play them year round!).  Beethoven’s Last Night is a fascinating rock opera, and if you go for that kind of thing, this album MUST be in your library.  The story line is great, and all the “riffs” of Beethoven’s classics (and Mozart too!) and how they are interwoven into the music are fantastic.

2. John Foreman Winter/Summer/Spring EPs.  (2008)

Part of a larger group of 4 EP’s, the other one was released in 2007 (and added to my library in 2007).  All 4 EP’s are fantastic, though my favorites are Summer and Fall.  Foreman is a prolific writer, and all of his songs tend to strike a chord with me lyrically.  This EP set is a nice break from Switchfoot (which is still one of my favorite bands) and allows Foreman to explore different sounds that don’t really fit the Switchfoot image.

3. Future of Forestry. Self titled EP and Twilight.  (2006 and 2007)

I’m including both the EP and the album, but Twilight has all the songs of the EP and more.  All of these songs are excellent, and this may be the “rockiest” sounding of all the albums in this list.

4.  The Avett Brothers, Four Thieves Gone.  (2006)

Home of my #1 played song in 2008 — “Left on Laura Left on Lisa.”  The Avett Brothers are nothing if not quirky, but they have quickly become one of my favorite bands.  Their sound defies categorization.  While their early work could possibly fit under bluegrass, their later work doesn’t fit anywhere.  But as singer/songwriters, they are awesome.

5.  Okkervil River, The Stand Ins. (2008)

Great singer/songwriters… Each song is its own story, often fun, sometimes serious, always engaging.  One review I read compared them to The Counting Crows, but I am not so sure I agree with that.  CC are definitely darker, and mostly seem more personal/related to Adam Duritz, whereas Okkervil River seems more like stories written about others (though often sung in 1st person).

6.  Mark Knopfler and Emmy Lou Harris, All the Roadrunning.  (2006)

If you take the (somewhat) “soft rock” sound of Dire Straights, countrify it a little, and add a fantastic female vocal, you have this album.  Great sound, great songs.

7.  The Avett Brothers, The Gleam II.  (2008)

One of my top 3 songs of the year, “Murder in the City,” is on this EP.  These songs are somewhat more subdued than most other Avett Brothers Albums, but they continue to grow on me.

8.  Radiohead.  In Rainbows.  (2007)

I guess I’m a little late, as this was #1, or at least top 5, in many top album lists last year.  This is really the odd ball out in my list musically (partially because it is popular, but also because of the sound), but the music is good and often quite innovative, in my opinion.

9.  Bon Iver. Forever Emma, Forever Ago.  (2007)

This has one of the strangest sounds of all, and I have listened to it a ton, but still have not really explored the lyrics like I normally do with my favorite music.  Sometimes that comes with time, as I hear the sounds over and over, and eventually am more drawn into the lyrics.  I don’t know if that will happen here or not, but I still like the sounds.

10.  Sera Cahoone.   Only as the Day is Long.  (2008)

This is another along the lines of Bon Iver at #11 above…  I’ve heard this many times, but have not really listened (dug into) it… But the sound is soothing and relaxing, and maybe I’ll get into the lyrics when the time is right.

11.  August Rush.  (2007)

Great movie, and there is enough decent music on the album to make it onto this list.

Honorable Mention:  Led Zeppelin.  Mothership.  (2007).

Somewhat of a sentimental pick… I got this for $4.99 on Amazon, even though I already have all of their music.  But since they once dominated my listening, back in late high school and most of college, I am putting this in as an “honorable mention.

And here are my top played songs for those songs added in 2008:

And top played artists (all-time):

(this will be interesting to compare against next year…)

The Ghosts of Christmas Eve. 1999.

I am a huge Trans-Siberian Orchestra fan.  They are 4th on my most played artist list according to ilike, which is pretty amazing since three of their four albums are Christmas albums, and I tend to not listen to them except in December!  (I do love their one non-Christmas album “Beethoven’s Last Night,” and I have been planning on a blog entry for it at some point.)

October is definitely early to watch a Christmas movie, but TSO is coming here in November, and I wanted to have Riley watch the movie to see if she would be interested in going to the concert.  Turns out she loved the movie part, but said she thought she might be bored at the concert if it was just music and not a movie!  😦

If you are a TSO fan, you will probably like this short movie (45 min.), and if you are not a TSO fan, you may like it.  I still can’t decide, after just one viewing, if it really captured TSO’s music and the emotion it can pull.  The story in the movie is much different from the three Christmas albums, and while the music was tied in pretty well, most of the music is from the stories of the albums and not the story of the movie.  I also can’t compare to a live show since I have yet to see them, but I still want to!

The Big Chill. 1983.

The Today show was running a series of anniversary/get-togethers on old movies, including Airplane, Footloose, and the 25th anniversary of The Big Chill.  So after seeing that, I wanted to see the movie again because it had been years and years and I really didn’t remember it all that well.  The movie is good, but there are a lot of drugs and some other things that go on that I don’t care for that much.  Maybe I’ve changed as I’ve grown older, as I don’t recall feeling that way when I watched it way back when.  The movie is still worth a watch,  as the thought of a close friend (from college) dying unexpectedly is sobering as we get older.  But most of the movie deals with that at a fairly superficial level while spending more time on less pressing issues.

Music Builds Tour

Kelly and I went to the Music Builds tour at Walnut Creek Amphitheater with our friends Jonathan and Amanda, and we met Nikki and Paul there.  We got to see both Switchfoot and Third Day!  Unfortunately, we missed Red, Robert Randolph, and Jars of Clay, though at the end of the show, Red came out and sang with Third Day, Robert Randolph played with Third Day, Jars of Clay sang I’ll Fly Away with Third Day, and then Switchfoot came out and everyone played When Love Comes to Town, which was pretty awesome. What we saw of Robert Randolph was pretty impressive so I plan on finding some music of his on myspace or imeem or some such and giving it a listen.

We were 5th row dead center, as you can see from the photos.  Both bands put on an amazing show.  This is the 2nd time we have seen Switchfoot in the past year, and they are really worth watching live.  And I think it is the 4th or 5th time we’ve seen Third Day now.

I’m in Friends of the Foot, so after Switchfoot played, Kelly and thought we’d get to see them at the Meet and Greet, but it took longer than we expected, and when Third Day started playing, we left the line and went back to the show.  Maybe next time we see Switchfoot in concert and they are the only headliner, we will get to meet them.

We did get to go to the meet and greet for Third Day, as Nikki went to school with Mac and Mark.  We even stayed after the meet and greet and hung out with those two for 20 – 30 minutes chatting.  They are both so down to earth and friendly, and we appreciated them hanging out after such a long day.

One thing that was funny is that Kelly was worried about wearing her Switcfoot shirt while we were talking to Third Day.  Mac said he saw her while they were playing and noticed the shirt!  I believe him because I could see him making eye contact with lots of different people in the audience.

Monday Music 7-28-08

Jon Foreman — Summer EP

This is actually the 4th EP in Jon Foreman’s solo series.  I have become a huge Switchfoot fan over the past couple of years — they are the #1 band in my artist play count now, by a large margin!

This EP is the best of the 4 in the series in my opinion, and I’ve been listening to it a lot the past month or so.  It certainly is the most religious of the four.  Riley and Reece really like “Instead of a Show” and “House of God Forever,” both of which are taken almost straight from the Bible.  “House of God Forever” is Psalm 23.  If I could play guitar and sing, I’d love to sing that one in front of the Church one day!

Check out his myspace page to listen to the tunes.

On that page Foreman has a blog post with the following quote in it:

Lately music has been my compass: it’s neither the map, nor the road but a steady constant that can help me make sense of the both.

Most of the time, the songs that I write are more honest than I am. Sometimes I don’t play certain songs for people because I’m not ready for that sort of honesty.

I don’t write many happy songs, at least not lately. Which is odd because I’m a fairly upbeat guy. So I’ve got a few theories as to why this might be the case

It might be because life wears down on you. And you lose that part of yourself.

Or it could be because the songs are the only place where these types of ideas can find a release- like a dream where your subconscious is trying to tell you something.

Or perhaps I don’t write songs when I’m happy. You know, a celebration requires a few friends and depression requires solitude.

Either way songs have become my way of finding beauty in the midst of chaos and the pain. It’s a way of finding redemption for mistakes and regrets that I have.

I find that incredibly interesting to me personally, as even though I am very content and happy with life, my musical taste does tend to lean towards darker and more melancholy music.  Some examples of this are Avett Brothers (though they have some very uplifting songs too, many have a twinge of sadness/longing in them); Pearl Jam; Leonard Cohen; Counting Crows; Dar Williams; Bob Dylan; etc.  I do find some very uplifting songs from Switchfoot, though, like This is Your Life, The Beautiful Moment, Dare You to Move, etc.

Music Monday 8/21/08

I’ve been thinking of starting a “Monday Music” post, and had a few albums/songs/ep’s all ready to go, when something happened this weekend that definitely needs a post, and fits in good as the 1st in this new series.

There is a small local band called the McKenzie Brothers that we have seen at Kelly’s parents favorite hang out, May Street Market.   Rick had given me their “friends and family” CD a while back, and Riley and Reece had enjoyed “Banana Pudding.”  And one time when we had seen them, they sang a new song called “The Haw River Stomp” which was great for us, because we live near that very river, and now Riley and Reece know to lift their feet and say “haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwww” every time we drive over it.

You can hear a couple of their songs here:

Well we went to a little party at the Rondello’s, and there was Robbie Mckenzie.  I made the mistake of telling Riley that he was the man who sang “Banana Pudding.”  Once I did that, it was over!  All she wanted was for him to sing it.  Over and over and over.  And over.  And over again.  And again.  (I think you get the idea!)

Robbie had her read pretty quickly when he said she was “high maintenance all the way!”  And he was a really good sport about it and sang that and other songs for her, and took the time to throw her into the lake several times.  He is a fun guy to be around!

Here is a picture of them together:

Later, Dominque and Robbie sang “Banana Pudding” for us:

And finally…  Right now, “Ob-la-di Ob-la-da” happens to be Riley’s favorite song.  So she asked Robbie “are you the man who sings ob-la-di ob-la-da?”   And he treated Riley and Reece to that as well:

Turns out they have two albums on itunes here, and one album on Amazon here.  If you like what you hear on Pure Volume, check them out on itunes or amazon!